Brooklyn Nets’ point guard Deron Williams averaged 13 points per game, 6.6 assists per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. Those numbers fail to reach Williams apex in Utah where he averaged 21.3 points per game, 9.7 assists per game and 3.9 rebounds per game. In plain English, without the analytics: his play declined.
Although the latter numbers represent those of the league’s top point guards, the former, present numbers do not. Where the discrepancy harms the Nets most is financially. Currently, Williams, with two years remaining on his gargantuan contract totalling $43.3 million is being compensated like an elite player at the position.
General Manager Billy King rejects any possibility of buying out Williams or implementing the stretch provision. Under the stretch provision Williams would be bought out and his contract would be spread over five seasons at $8.6 million each year. King left open the opportunity to remove Williams from the team, but only via trade.
The greatest hint at a desire to trade Williams came from a letter to season ticket holders at the end of the season. In the letter, Williams and aging, former star, largely overpaid teammate Joe Johnson were omitted.
We are committed to keeping our core leadership together by re-signing Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. At the same time, we will continue to build on our emerging young core of players, such as Mason Plumlee, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown, and Sergey Karasev.
Aiming the letter to key free agents and young players King didn’t wish to insult Williams or Johnson.
I think everyone made a big deal of [the letter] because we didn’t mention Joe and Deron’s name, but I think in doing so, we talked about Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, trying to retain them because they were free agents. We talked about some of our younger guys because some of those guys we didn’t know coming in how successful they’d be coming in the NBA. So I guess we were sort of saying, we know these guys can play in the league, and we weren’t trying to slight Deron or Joe. We know what they have, what they bring to the table.
“Some of our younger guys” included rookie Markel Brown. During his opening campaign he averaged 4.6 points per game, 0.8 assists per game and 2.3 rebounds per game, however this belies the true impact of his season as he received limited playing time until the All-Star break. Shortly after the break he was inserted into the starting line-up and stayed there until the season ended, totalling 29 starts.
His inclusion commenced with a double-double against the Denver Nuggets and involved other notable performances against the New Orleans Pelicans where he was involved in every facet of the game, totaling eight points, four rebounds, one assist, one block and three steals. Against the Los Angeles Lakers he scored a career-high 17 points, collected four rebounds and assisted four times.
Despite a solid finish to the season alongside Williams, Brown seems eager to compete with him to run the team. “My goal for the offseason is to get in the gym, score the ball and be able to handle the point guard spot,” Brown said.
At 6’3″, 190 pounds, Brown seems more suited for the point guard position. Playing as the off-guard he would be physically outmatched versus taller, stronger and larger opponents.
Brown provides athleticism and energy which seemingly defines the point guard position as Russell Westbrook, Brown’s idol, displayed last season.
While Brown believes his skills translated defensively last season, he wants to convert them into offensive success as well. “All the coaches know I’m a solid defender, but they want to see me go out there and score the ball,” Brown said. “Even though they know I can score, I didn’t try to do too much my rookie season. But going into next season, they want me to help contribute more for the team.”
When King acquired Williams from Utah he suspected Williams would be the point guard of the future. Three years into his contract King didn’t anticipate him fighting for the job with a second round pick. Unless King finds a trade partner for Williams a competition for the starting point guard position seems likely.